I have recently been looking into various aspects of Israeli tourism. As I was reading the Wikipedia article for “Bus travel in Israel,” I chuckled when I read (emphasis mine),
If you want the driver to tell you your stop, it is best to be clear about it. If you just tell the driver where you want to go, he may ask you at the following stop why you didn’t get off. Also, he might forget, so it is often better to ask the passengers.
While Israeli manners may be rougher than in some other countries, they are also more likely to actually help you, with several people debating the best route for you.
They just cannot help themselves.
Last week, Americans commemorated the tenth anniversary of the the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. I found most occasions of public memorial rather distasteful. Modern American society pushes us to indulge in pathos. Moreover, as Lawrence Auster has often remarked, the officially sanctioned language regarding the horrible events ten years ago perverts the public understanding. The day was not one of tragedy but of malice and aggression. People did not just die; our enemies intentionally killed them. A decade later, many of us remain clueless and apathetic to the war without and the war within. Instead of waking to the problem, we have gone on a long ride that benefits politicians, war industrialists, and even our enemies. We are the suckers of world history.
One commemorative item that I found suitable was an interactive feature on the New York Times, “The World Trade Center Towers As They Were.” You may listen to a narration about the towers as you manipulate the device to look at a computer model of the World Trade Center complex. There are also interviews about the architecture, engineering, and art of the site. The Frenchman in the interview notes how the towers functioned as a compass for people who emerged from the subway. Such was true for my brothers and me when we visited the city. A glimpse of the towers informed us immediately which way was south. I was not a fan of the glass and steel design, but the complex was noble in its own way. Our nation has ceased to be so ambitious in our buildings. We have ceded civilizational confidence to other nations.
It is vacation time in much of the civilized world. If you find yourself at the beach, in the mountains, on the lake, or in a distant land soaking up the local color, enjoy yourself and be grateful for the splendor of life.
Relatedly, I have discovered an interesting site that showcases postcards from around the world, Wild Postcards. It is well designed with suitably scenic content that makes me want to travel to the depicted destinations. Happy trekking!
John Bloom (“Joe Bob Briggs”) makes some comedic observations of Niagara Falls’ tacky tourism in Taki’s Magazine: “Niagara Falls, Ontario: World’s Greatest Tourist Trap.” I visited Niagara Falls three years ago, and I can attest that the Canadian side holds its own in the realm of Ripley’s Believe It or Not spots. I do not mind the hucksterism and tastelessness; that underbelly of culture has its own charms. Human beings are endless fascinating, even in their silliness.
However, there are many wonderful things about Niagara Falls on both sides of the river. The lakes, falls, and river are spectacular. Both Ontario and New York have made visiting these natural attractions quite easy; parks, picnic areas, and viewing platforms are located throughout the region. I recommend the Niagara Falls and Great Gorge Adventure Pass from the Niagara Parks Commission in Ontario. I would also recommend a day trip to visit the vineyards north of the falls, including a stop at the quaint Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you visit the Canadian side, do not overlook the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory.
The New York side is not entirely bereft of entertainment. The New York State Reservation offers some grand views of the falls, and it is free to enter on foot. New York’s other parks along the river, like Whirlpool State Park, are excellent places to eat with a view after picking up some delectable treats at DiCamillo Bakery. You can always get a bit of history at Fort Niagara, opposite Niagara-on-the-Lake, which offers a distant view of Toronto. You may also make the short drive to Buffalo to feast at the Anchor Bar, the origin of Buffalo wings. So, get fat in America and get stupid in Canada; that’s a fine recipe for a fun vacation.
Last week, I discovered a blog written by an American expat in Paris, Nichole Robertson, called Little Brown Pen. Her site features photographs that she has taken for the Paris Color Project; Robertson captures scenes and organizes them by hue and tint. She has a wonderful eye for seeing beauty everywhere, especially in the details of the Parisian cityscape that endear it to so many. You will certainly enjoy her aesthetic appreciation of my old town. Vive la ville-lumière! How I miss it.
Last month, I internetically stumbled upon The Moscow Times’ photostream, which features about one hundred pictures. They bring back memories.
Speaking of the Russkies, I decided over the weekend to learn more about past and present Russian governmental structures. I still cannot understand the Soviet system; it was ridiculously messy. Such was appropriate for scam politics in a state where there was no rule of law. The new constitutional order seems to follow the American regime somewhat, with a bicameral federal legislature, the Federal Assembly, consisting of the State Duma as the lower house and the Federation Council as the upper house. As far as I can tell, the members of the Duma are not elected to represent a particular district. Rather, the people vote for parties in a national election, and each party’s representation in the Duma depends on the proportion of votes that each party receives. The parties themselves choose which party members represent the party in the Duma. The Duma must start all legislation, which is like our House of Representatives insofar as all tax bills must begin in the House.
There are many shortcomings to the American system, but I find it superior to the Russian regime in a number of ways. The peculiar election system for the Duma does not allow for a connection between the voters and their representatives; for there are no candidates. There is also no need for parties to campaign or to be as responsive to each local region, as the election is national. Less populous regions must garner less attention than they do in the American system, where geographical representation in the federal government is assured even outside the Senate. Moreover, the Duma system puts much power in the hands of the parties’ elites. Such a system contrasts much with the American system, where “all politics is local.” Of course, there are many American critics of our provincial tendencies, but they are wrong. The quirkiness of the American system allows other factors such as personal acquaintance, character assessment, and local concerns to contend with and even to trump ideology, and I think that such makes for a healthier political regime, especially as democratic peoples are endemically susceptible to perverse ideological fevers.
The Federation Council is like our Senate in that each Russian federal subject sends two members to it. A federal subject is like an American State, though it can be a number of various entities with different degrees of autonomy. In this, the federal subject more closely resembles the localities in many States, where different types have different levels of power (a township as compared to a village or city in Ohio, for instance). Yet, each federal subject has an equal representation in the Federation Council. The Russian upper house also resembles the original (and better) American Senate in that its members are not elected by the voters but rather chosen by the federal subject’s government. The local legislature chooses one member, and the governor chooses the other. This seems like a good idea in that it gives power to local authorities who have an interest in keeping power decentralized, but Putin altered the balance when he pushed for the Russian President to be able to appoint governors. Since then, the president has chosen each governor. As each governor chooses one of his federal subject’s members in the Federation Council, half the council is indirectly subservient to the president. Clearly, such is a perversion of the Federation Council’s intended role, but it is an example of how Putin centralized political control during his presidency. He may have thought such necessary, though, to keep regions of non-Russian ethnicity from secession.
A significant difference between the Russian and American systems is that the Russian upper body cannot initiate any legislation. It may only affirm or veto the legislation of the Duma, but the Duma may override a veto with a two thirds vote. In this, the Russian system appears to resemble the British parliament after it emasculated the House of Lords. The upper house may only obstruct; it may not lead. I also read that a two thirds vote is needed to override a presidential veto, but I am not sure if that large majority is necessary in both houses or simply in the Duma.
I have a question for Russians or those knowledgeable in Russian. What is the difference between собор (sobor) and совет (soviet)? Both appear to mean meeting, council, or assembly. I know that an ecclesial council is a sobor and that it was a Земский собор—an assembly of all the land—that put the Romanovs in power after the Time of Troubles. Of course, we all know the use of soviet. Yet, is there a difference in meaning? The Federation Council is Совет Федерации (Sovet Federatsii), and the Federal Assembly appears to be a version of sobor, Федеральное Собрание (Federalnoye Sobraniye), though I am not sure.
As I type, thousands of committed prolife Americans are travelling to Washington to participate in the March for Life. In just a few hours, they will arrive in the capital, cramped and tired, and step into the stinging cold air that nonetheless must provide a nice change from the stagnant atmosphere of a charter bus. I somewhat miss the hassle and strain that I had to go through to get to D.C. for the march. The trip seemed like a pilgrimage, and the pain in travel added to the value of the mission.
Now, when I simply walk down Constitution Avenue after having gotten up, showered, and eaten breakfast, it seems a bit like cheating. I also miss the camaraderie of the trips. In undergrad., our Students for Life group would organize stays in the lounges of local colleges, and we would remain in D.C. for several days to see the sights as well as to participate in the march and in other prolife activities. Staying up all night in a Georgetown study lounge, discussing scholastic ethics or arguing whether Homer or Vergil gave his society the better epic are moments that I remember fondly.
Moreover, the city appeared more enchanting when I did not know it well. Of course, getting lost in the ‘hood back then because I did not know about the quadrant system (how many intersections at Fourth and H Streets are there?) make me appreciate my current acquaintance with Washington. Still, there is something marvellous about a new, mysterious town where the various places that you visit do not fit together to make an overall map but rather suggest an infinity of potential experiences.
I suppose that it is yet another example of how life is about trade offs. The new and alluring ceases to be mysterious once you live somewhere for long, but then you develop a relationship with a town, as it becomes an old friend. When I visited Paris as a sixteen year old, it was magical. When I returned to live and to study there, the magic wore off, but a new love developed. It became my town—no longer unknown, perhaps a bit less enchanting, but more loved and appreciated. Only by spending much time in a place can you begin to know all of its hidden charms that outsiders miss. My first impression of the Seine could not have been more romantic, and yet only when I lived in the City of Lights did I have the opportunity to enjoy the Parc des Buttes Chaumont on a windy day in the summer, the cozy hospitality of certain small Mediterranean cafés near Saint-Germain-des-Prés, or strolling through the Parc Monceau among April blooms on a Sunday afternoon after the liturgy. Contrast the emotional riches of the adolescent crush with the faithful marriage of many years. Each has its own delights, but the latter rests superior.
Anyway, I wish all of the marchers a safe trip and a fruitful time in Washington. I hope that the legions of teenagers and college students find the city wonderful for the hours or days that they experience it.
It is my brother Adam’s birthday, and I wish him the best.
To commemorate his day, I present The Open Road by Claude Friese-Greene. Greene filmed The Open Road as a travelogue of a road trip in A.D. 1924 from Land’s End in Cornwall to John o’ Groats in Caithness and then finally to London. Adam and I made our very own road trip to see these British extremities, though I suspect that we took a slightly different course.
The movie is charming—another testament to what Britain has lost since the war. What commercial liberal man has exchanged for mammon!
Anyway, happy birthday, Adam! I remember well those little towns, Welsh castles, and Scottish Highlands.
Yesterday, I presented David Sedaris’ humorous take on the Dutch celebration of Saint Nicholas Day. Here are some videos of the celebration that I found online.
Of course, the multiculturalists want to ban Zwarte Piet and his Moorishly dressed pals as tokens of Holland’s racist past. It does not look like Sinterklaas’ browner helpers are going anywhere anytime soon, though. Except periodically back to Spain . . .
The United Kingdom is in a ruinous state. You may have read that hooligans have rioted in Britain’s cities over an increase in student fees. “Youth” even attacked the car of Prince Charles and Camilla while they were on their way to the theater. I doubt that the perpetrators will be charged with treason; the men of the sceptered isle no longer believe in their crown or their law. Dysfunction reigns supreme in Albion, and I fear that it may be even worse there than here. At least, there is a vocal minority in the States who occasionally refuse to cower to the barbarians. Where is Arthur when he is needed?
It seems as if the madness has even reached dear Glastonbury, which I have visited twice to pay homage to my patron saint, Joseph of Arimathea. Evidently, someone vandalized one of the Glastonbury Thorns yesterday. Of course, the sacrilege is not as bad as when filthy pig Cromwell’s men destroyed the ancient hallowed tree, of which the current trees are cuttings. What possesses people? Well, I suppose that we know the answer.